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Three potential WNBA fits for Veronica Burton

The sky is the limit for the Backcourt Burglar.

Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

The WNBA Draft is just a few days away, and Wildcat fans are preparing to see one of Northwestern’s all-time greats, Veronica Burton, earn a spot in the league. Largely discussed by mock draft analysts as a first to early second round pick, the Massachusetts’ native has proven herself throughout her four years in Evanston as one of the best defensive-minded guards in the country. With that in mind, here are three teams in the W with which Burton could fit especially well.

Indiana Fever

The Fever have the second, fourth, sixth and tenth overall picks. Even if Indiana didn’t want a point guard, it has more than enough draft capital to add depth at every position. And after five straight losing seasons, the Fever desperately need a defensive-minded floor general to right the ship. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

According to Her Hoop Stats, the Fever have finished either last or second-to-last in defensive rating since 2017. In 2021, their guards exacerbated those struggles. Lindsay Allen, Kelsey Mitchell and Tiffany Mitchell – who all started or played significant minutes – posted the three lowest defensive win share totals among guards last season. They were also three of the league’s four worst defenders overall by that metric per Basketball Reference – Fever forward Jantel Lavender was the other.

There’s no need to flesh out an argument about how Burton could fix this. The only question is whether Indiana will focus on shoring up depth elsewhere with picks six and 10. This draft class is projected to be forward-heavy at the top, and point guards Kierstan Bell and Destanni Henderson are ranked ahead of Burton. Without an early second round pick, Indiana may have to choose the Backcourt Burglar over the other two floor generals to fit its needs best.

Washington Mystics

The Mystics are another team that disappointed defensively in 2021. Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins are both under contract through the end of the 2023 season and form a solid starting backcourt. But, now that bench contributors Sydney Wiese and Leilani Mitchell are free agents, the Mystics could use some guard depth.

If Washington picks Burton and she ends up making their roster, she could immediately take on significant bench minutes. Mitchell and Wiese both put up negative defensive win shares in 2021, so it’s not ridiculous to expect coach and general manager Mike Thibault to designate a defensive-minded player as his second unit’s leader.

Burton could also fit in as a key playmaker. The Mystics fell in the middle of the pack in most assist-based stats last year, and could use a facilitator to set up Elena Delle Donne with better shots. Burton ranked sixth in the nation with 6.4 assists per game last season, so she could complement Atkins in the backcourt when Cloud needs rest.

The Mystics hold picks three and 14. If Burton is available at 14, Thibault will likely select her. But, because the early second round is more likely Burton’s floor, she may not be on the board by the time Washington is on the clock.

Los Angeles Sparks

With second-leading scorer and primary facilitator Erica Wheeler gone, the Sparks could also use a pass-first guard. Los Angeles holds the ninth pick, which is right in the middle of Burton’s range. So this may be Burton’s most likely destination if coach and general manager Derek Fisher is willing to pull the trigger.

Unlike the Fever and Mystics, the Sparks were one of the WNBA’s best defensive squads in 2021. But Los Angeles finished with the league’s worst assist-to-turnover ratio and its lowest team rebound total. Burton could contribute in both of those areas if she can make the roster.

The Sparks signed former Seattle Storm guard Jordin Canada to take on most of Wheeler’s minutes. However, Canada doesn’t contribute much on the glass. Burton can add to L.A.’s rotation as a more all-around guard when Fisher needs to play a big lineup. Canada, a two-time champion who made the WNBA’s All-Defensive First Team in 2019, would also be a perfect mentor for Burton.

The WNBA Draft will take place Monday, April 11th, at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN. Mark your calendars, and tune in to see where Burton and her Big Ten counterparts end up.